Five Things to Consider When Starting a Culinary Garden
May 7, 2020
5 min read
Successful kitchen gardens start with well designed plans.
Starting a Modern Potager doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
With a little planning and forethought, starting a culinary garden is easily within reach and provides so much more for us than a production space, but rather a place of personal growth and happiness.
The Modern Potager Kitchen Garden
Today’s Modern Potager gardens often use raised beds and container gardening to transform the existing outdoor landscape. These new kitchen gardens blend form and function, to produce the food and flora varieties that are most important to the gardener while making the most of the growing seasons.
Tips for Starting a Culinary Garden
Step 1) Select the best location for your culinary garden.
Choosing a location is often the most intimidating step of the garden design process. But it doesn’t have to be!
There is almost always possibilities to creating a kitchen garden, no matter where you are. Whether you only have a balcony or hundreds of square feet to dedicate to a full-scale garden, growing your own food can be a reality.
Things to consider when selecting a garden location is: sunlight, water access, ground conditions, and distance from your kitchen.
Step 2) Choose your garden design style.
The Modern Potager incorporates raised beds and container gardening into your existing outdoor landscape. If you have a small space, there is a way to work with what you have. If you have a lot of space, that can work too.
Raised beds and containers provide a lot of benefits for starting a kitchen garden quickly and efficiently. Raised beds and containers provide more control over the growing environment (i.e. soil!), plant selection, and make the most of the space available for gardening.
Whether you prefer wood, stone, or rustic, there is a raised bed plan that can be created to suit your design esthetic and budget.
Step 3) Start dreaming about your favorite real foods.
I always ask clients to brainstorm what they most want to grow in their gardens and use that wish list as a starting point for where we end up. Some plant varieties may not be well-suited for the climate (more on that next), while others won’t likely be eaten.
With this wish list in mind, you can start properly planning and selecting the best varieties for your garden. That list helps eliminate decision fatigue when we’re feeling overwhelmed browsing seed catalogs or shopping at a local nursery.
Knowing what you want to grow helps determine the planting plot. Having a plan in place provides an opportunity to incorporate companion planting methods, schedule when to start seeds and when to transplant seedlings, and most importantly, when to harvest!
Step 4) Understand your growing climate.
It’s important to know your climate and understand what grows best during your seasons, wherever you live.
Some essential garden facts to keep in mind are: Your growing zone, the first and last frost dates in your zone, and the number of days in your growing season. Write these dates in a garden journal – they will be a handy reference for you whenever you’re researching plants or head to the local garden center.
With your growing season in mind, you can start adding or removing plant varieties from your wish list. If you have a short growing season, plants that have extra long harvest times (such as Brussel sprouts) may not be the best choice to start growing (unless you’re starting inside very early).
Step 5) Grow with the best soil mixture you can.
Plain and simple: successful gardens need the best soil – and that often doesn’t come straight out of a bag at the local big box store or growing center.
You’ll want to look for organic materials that can be mixed to create a quality soil blend for your beds or containers. These organic materials might include a combination of aged manure, compost, potting mix or soil, green material, and masonry sand.
There are quality blends available, but they are often quite expensive when purchasing by-the-bag. Depending upon your space, these materials can be sourced from a local nursery or soil specialist and delivered directly to fill your beds.
As a garden consultant, I encourage all of my clients to start composting at home, but that takes time and when you’re just starting a new garden, you’ll need to develop your soil with quality materials that are ready to use. Compost aged after you start gardening will be used to refresh and feed your garden space for the upcoming seasons.
Starting a culinary garden – or Modern Potager – starts with your vision. Add in some planning and a little expert advice and your kitchen garden is easily within reach and will give you so much more than some tasty meals. Your garden will become a space for personal growth, happiness, and an appreciation for the future.
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